The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

Slower light for faster telecom networks

Promising research could yield better optical data storage

3 min read

14 December 2007—A new method of temporarily storing light inside optical fibers may help speed up the optical telecommunications network of the future. Researchers at Duke University, in Durham, N.C., and the University of Rochester, in Rochester, N.Y., report in today’s issue of the journal Science that they have managed to store light pulses for several nanoseconds by converting them into sound waves. The ability to store data carried by light without first converting it into electricity could allow telecom networks to process that data more efficiently.

The scientists used a technique called stimulated Brillouin scattering to stop the light in its tracks. First, they sent light pulses encoded with data into one end of a 5-meter-long loop of optical fiber, the same sort of glass fiber that carries Internet and telephone communications around the world. Then they sent another set of pulses, called write pulses, with a slightly lower frequency than the data pulses, into the fiber in the opposite direction. ”When the pulses physically overlap in the fiber, they interfere with each other,” says Daniel Gauthier, a physics professor at Duke and one of the paper’s authors.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

Why Functional Programming Should Be the Future of Software Development

It’s hard to learn, but your code will produce fewer nasty surprises

11 min read
A plate of spaghetti made from code
Shira Inbar

You’d expectthe longest and most costly phase in the lifecycle of a software product to be the initial development of the system, when all those great features are first imagined and then created. In fact, the hardest part comes later, during the maintenance phase. That’s when programmers pay the price for the shortcuts they took during development.

So why did they take shortcuts? Maybe they didn’t realize that they were cutting any corners. Only when their code was deployed and exercised by a lot of users did its hidden flaws come to light. And maybe the developers were rushed. Time-to-market pressures would almost guarantee that their software will contain more bugs than it would otherwise.

Keep Reading ↓Show less